ESPN.com news services
The no-huddle offense has become a staple of the NFL in 2013, but Sam Wyche, who introduced the system to the league in the 1980s, has revealed that the NFL tried to stop it when he was coaching the Cincinnati Bengals.
Wyche, whose Bengals used the no-huddle during the 1988 season to reach the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills, told Newsday that then-commissioner Pete Rozelle told him two hours before that game that his team would be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct if it ran the hurry-up.
“We’d been using it for five years, that’s all we used all season long, we had the No. 1 offense in football, that’s all we practiced all week long, that’s how we got to the AFC championship,” Wyche said. “And then two hours before he said, ‘You can’t use that.'”
Wyche said the league had previously informed then-Bengals owner Paul Brown and NBC, which was televising the game, of its plans. Wyche was to be one of the last to know, but one of NBC’s commentators, who Wyche said was a former teammate of his but didn’t identify by name, informed him that the NFL wanted to end the no-huddle, so he was prepared when he got Rozelle’s message.
“I immediately told the NFL delegate along with the referee who was in the office there with me and [now-Bengals owner] Mike Brown, I said ‘Go get Pete Rozelle on the phone right now because I want to tell him that he’s interfering with the competitive balance of this game, and if we get penalized and lose this ballgame, the first thing I’m bringing up in the press conference is this conversation and there are a lot of gamblers out there who aren’t going to be very happy.’
“It wasn’t 20 seconds before he came back, he left the room and came back, I’m not exaggerating, I bet it wasn’t 20 seconds. ‘Uh, commissioner says go ahead and use the no-huddle, no problem,'” Wyche said.
The Bengals won the AFC title game 21-10 to reach Super Bowl XXIII, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-16.